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Options given for fire service

Options given for fire service

By CHRIS MENEES
Staff Reporter
The Obion County Commission will reconvene June 1 to discuss rural fire coverage options — after a special meeting of the county’s fire committee with all city mayors or city officials.
The commission was expected to discuss the county’s rural fire subscription program during its meeting this morning and it was the final item on a lengthy agenda.
Obion County is no longer collecting rural fire subscription fees after the county clerk expressed concerns about her office collecting a fee not authorized by state statute and decided earlier this month to stop collecting the fee.
This morning, Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire presented com-missioners a list of four possible solutions that included a countywide re-ferendum, a fire tax, a fire fee collected by a utility district or subscriptions to be collected by each city. He outlined the positives and negatives of each option.
McGuire said there have been a lot of emotions in recent days and decisions are sometimes made based on emotion, but he emphasized the importance of Obion County and the cities working together to find a solution.
“Nothing worth doing is easy,” he said.
McGuire recommended the county’s fire committee meet with the city mayors or designated city officials May 29 at 9 a.m. at the courthouse and then report back to the full county commission June 1 at 9 a.m. for a final decision.
The commission voted 21-0 to recess until June 1. The vote came just before 11 a.m. today.
McGuire urged everyone to attend the fire committee meeting and he said each city needs to have someone in attendance who can speak on behalf of their city. All options will be put before the county commission June 1 and it is expected to be the only item on the agenda.
County commissioner Dwayne Hensley said he believes it is “a good starting point.” He said the rural fire issue began over 25 years ago and the current commission inherited the situation. County attorney Steve Conley noted the matter actually goes back to 1975.
McGuire urged those involved to “please, don’t close the door” before a solution can be found. Just last week, Union City’s city council decided to stop offering fire protection outside the city limits effective July 1 if the county did not act upon providing funding for rural fire service.
Obion County had entered into an interlocal agreement with the communities of Hornbeak, Kenton, Obion, Rives, Samburg, Troy and Union City in January 2011 for the purpose of establishing a countywide fire protection service to residents outside the established town and city limits.
In the agreement, each municipality agreed to implement a standard subscription rate — $75 for each parcel/address — and Obion County agreed to collect and distribute all subscription fees — less a 5 percent collection fee — for all municipalities named in the agreement.
After the 5 percent clerk’s fee was deducted, Union City was paid $115,177 the first year the countywide program was in effect, while the other six cities were each paid about $25,000.
South Fulton had opted out of the interlocal agreement and continued its own rural fire subscription program.
Participation rate has been reported at 70 percent for the first year of the countywide rural fire subscription program.
Editor’s note: This morning’s commission meeting recessed just before for The Messenger’s deadline for today’s edition. A full story about this morning’s action regarding rural fire and many other agenda items will be published in Tuesday’s edition.
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at cmenees@ucmessenger.com.

Published in The Messenger 5.21.12

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